Review: Alice – Alice: Madness Returns

by John Harmon
October 04, 2012

Back in the year 2000, video game designer American McGee released a game simply called “American McGee’s Alice”. The game was his version of a sequel to the Lewis Carroll Alice novels. The story took place not too long after the second Alice novel, “Through the Looking Glass”. In the game, her house is burnt down by an accidental fire, killing her parents, but leaving her alive. This even was so traumatic that she had to be has to be committed to a mental asylum. For years, she is stuck in the asylum, all the while losing her grip on reality more and more. The only thing she has that reminds her of her past life is a stuffed rabbit.

One day, much to Alice’s surprise, the White Rabbit shows up and tells Alice that Wonderland is in trouble and they need her help. Wanting to leave the asylum, Alice gladly goes with the rabbit to help him. However, instead of Wonderland being…well, a place of wonder, it’s now a twisted, demented version of itself. This was a brilliant idea by American McGee, since Wonderland was supposed to be a part of Alice’s imagination, and her mind was now itself, twisted and demented. Many parts of this new Wonderland even have visual aesthetics that link back to an insane asylum, helping drive the notion home that it’s all in her head.

Cut to 2011, and a sequel to the game is released, under the name “Alice: Madness Returns”. In it, Alice tries to cope with being released from the insane asylum, believing herself to be cured. Even so, she keeps getting visions of Wonderland, and seeks help from a psychiatrist. Throughout the game, you shift back and forth through reality and Wonderland, all the while learning of the truth behind the fire that consumed your home and your family many years before.

So in honor of the new game, Diamond Select Toys released a small line of figures based on the “Madness Returns” game. There are two versions of Alice, the Cheshire Cat, and a Card Guard. Today, I’ll be looking at the normal version of Alice. So won’t you step with me through the looking glass (I apologize for that), as I see if this figure is worth your time, or if it should be thrown to the Jabberwock for decimation.

PACKAGING- It’s the standard Diamond Select packaging they’ve been using since the beginning. It’s the gigantic familiar bookend style of packaging. While consistency is great for the MOC collectors, I just can’t help but feel every time I see a Diamond Select figure like this, that the packaging is just a waste of resources. The figure and accessories don’t take up much room in there, and the excessive packaging just seems wasteful to me. But again, I can see why Diamond Select sticks with the same packaging for every figure they produce.

The back has a picture of the figure inside, and shows off the other figures in the line. It also features a short synopsis of the game, as well as a bio for Alice. I really love this, since anyone who isn’t familiar with the games will immediately get the gist of it just from reading this and presumably, become interested in the figures.

SCULPT – Like every figure produced by Diamond Select, Alice is on a 7″ scale and herself clocks in at just under 7″ tall. She’s very thin and lanky, all appropriately captured from the game design. She’s wearing her famous blue dress and white apron, though perhaps slightly twisted from what we’re used to. The bow on the back had a small skull right in the middle (very cool). She’s wearing knee-high leather boots, complete with the random straps and buckles you’d see on people in a goth club.She has a necklace with what seems to be the Greek symbol for Omega hanging from it. I really dig this.

Her head sculpt looks great, really capturing Alice’s look from the game. Her hair is sculpted to look as if it’s slightly billowing in the wind. I don’t always like dynamic hair poses, but it works here. She’s got an angry expression on her face, like that of a once innocent girl who is at the end of her rope and is about to help save Wonderland by any means necessary. I really like the expression on her face. It’s angry, but not too angry, so you can display her in a neutral or battle pose if you wanted.

PAINT – Her skin tone is left mostly unpainted, save for her face, which looks great. The eye tampos are aligned right, and there’s no mess with the eyelashes, eyebrows, or lips. Her hair is painted dark brown, with some lighter brown dry brushed on top. It’s subtle, but it looks good. In hand, her hair looks really glossy, perhaps too glossy. However, in the photos it just looks like her hair is capturing the light really well, as it might if she were a real person.

There is some slight messiness on her dress, on the back towards the bottom, and with some white and blue overlapping near the edges where her dress and apron meet. It’s probably not something you’d notice right away, but it is worth noting. The blood splatter on her dress looks fantastic. Very chaotic, as it should look. Just the right shade, and with some faded areas too, to give it variety.

On the pockets of her apron, she has the symbols for Eris and Jupiter. I never did understand why she had the symbols on her apron in the games, but considering that Eris is the goddess of discord, and Jupiter is the god of gods (or god of the sky and thunder), I’m sure one can infer what sort of significance they might have for Alice. Her boots are black with some gray dry brushed on top, and the buckles have been accented in silver. Very good detail here. Her stockings are black and white striped. They look good for the most part, though some of the black stripes do have a bit of over spray.

ARTICULATION – Alice has a ball jointed neck, ball jointed shoulders, bicep swivels, single elbows, mid-forearm swivel, waist swivel, ball jointed thighs, swivel-hinge knees, swivels at the top of the boots, and the swivel-hinge rocker ankles that both Diamond Select and Hasbro have been using a lot lately.

I have to say, I was really surprised at the level of articulation in the figure. Outside of Marvel figures, Diamond Select doesn’t usually employee such an extensive amount of articulation, though recently they have been getting more and more extensive with their articulation models. Just about everything on Alice here works great. All the joints are tight, and have a good range of motion, though there are some restrictions.

Due to the sculpt of her hair, turning Alice’s head may prove frustrating. When you turn it left or right, it forces her head down, so it may be difficult to keep her looking straight ahead while posing her head. Secondly, while her legs have a great amount of articulation, the dress does restrict the movement. It’s just the nature of the beast I suppose. You could put some slits down the side of her dress if you had a mind to, to allow for greater range of movement, but as is it will restrict the legs.

Speaking of which, due to her very thin legs and small feet, getting her to stay standing might prove annoying without a display stand. If you can manage it, you can get some pretty dynamic poses out of Alice, especially thanks to the rocker ankles. Such a simple concept, and it adds so much more to the posing options.

ACCESSORIES – Alice comes with four accessories. A display stand, the Vorpal Blade, a pepper grinder, and her Hobby Horse. The display stand is great and really helps with keeping her standing. It has four pegs on it, though the two outside pegs are taller than the ones in the middle for some reason. As such, her feet can’t touch the surface of the display stand, since the holes in her feet aren’t deep enough. I have no idea why this was done, though shortening them to the right height would be easy enough.

The Vorpal Blade is excellent, with a lovely sculpted vine pattern in the blade and of course stained with blood. Though let’s be honest, it does look just like a big butcher knife. Alice’s imagination running away with her I suppose. The pepper grinder is fantastic. The handle on top really does turn, and the entire thing looks like a warthog, with the end of the grinder being its snout. It’s painted to look like it’s really made from iron, and glowing from the inside. In the game, Alice used this as a sort of Gatling Gun to shoot her enemies. The toy accessory does not do this, sadly.

The hobby horse is my favorite accessory of hers, because it looks so realistic. It looks like it’s really made of wood, and is painted amazingly. The design of it is great, and matches the aesthetics of the game. In the game, this was used as a giant bludgeon. Alice has no problem holding any of her weapons, though unless you find the right balance, the hobby horse will weigh her arms down easily. Her arms are thin, and the hobby horse is solid plastic and big. So just keep that in mind.

FUN – As someone who has been a fan of the games since I first discovered American McGee’s Alice back in 2004, I have to say the figure is a lot of fun. Granted, her fun factor would improve greatly if you had the other figures to pose her with, but even by herself she’s a lot of fun. I’d say that for anyone who was unfamiliar with the games, they’d still find this fun.

She has a good amount of poseability, and fantastic accessories that add to the display factor. Even if you had no familiarity with the games, you’d still see the figure and recognize it as Alice from Wonderland, and see that she’s angry, has blood splatters on her dress, and comes with a giant knife that is also covered in blood. I’d say that makes it pretty fun.

QUALITY CONTROL – Nothing wrong with Alice.

OVERALL – I’d say it’s a really good figure. The sculpt captures the game design really well. the paint job has minor issues, though the bulk of it looks great. The blood splatters alone are fantastic. She has plentiful articulation, though admittedly some of it is restricted, due to her hair and her dress. Her accessories are fantastic, and easily my favorite part of this set. They’re intricately detailed and look quite realistic. It is hard to find certain poses with her, due to her skinny legs and small feet, but the display stand helps with that. Ultimately, this figure appeals to a niche market. It’s not Spider-Man or Batman, so this isn’t for everyone.

If you’re a fan of the game series, you’ll love the figure. If you’re not a fan of the game, but you love Lewis Carroll’s Alice books, you might enjoy the new take on the character. If you’re a fan of taking established literary characters and putting a new spin on them, particularly horror, then this might be for you. So you see, it will all depend on your tastes.

I will say that speaking purely as an action figure, I do think it’s worth getting, because of how fun it is, and how different it is. We just don’t see figures based on things like this much anymore. It harkens back to the days of the early 2000′s when McFarlane and Mezco made action figures and sets based on fairy tale characters with a horror twist.

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